To: "Liberal Media/Medias liberaux"
Sent: Wednesday, January 16, 2008 2:04 PM
Subject: NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release January 16, 2008
Chinese Ambassador Confirms Strained Canada-China Relationship
OTTAWA- Chinese Ambassador Lu Shumin's recent comments expressing concern about Canada-China relations illustrate how strained they have become under the Conservative government, Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae said today.
"China's ambassador to Canada was recently publicly quoted as saying 'any more undermining of our decades-old relationship will not serve Canada or China'," said Mr. Rae. "This unusually candid language for a diplomat should make it abundantly clear that, despite assurances from the Conservative government that things are fine, relations between our two countries have become dangerously strained."
Mr. Rae was referring to last Thursday's remarks by Mr. Lu Shumin at a meeting of the Ottawa chapter of the Canada-China Friendship Society. The ambassador commented that the Chinese people's deteriorating opinion of Canada is "not good news" and suggested that, "we may not see eye to eye but we can make tremendous progress by both respecting each other."
Mr. Rae explained these comments come after two years of diplomatic missteps and the consistent use of aggressive and undiplomatic language by the Prime Minister and members of the Conservative cabinet.
"From the initial snubbing of China's ambassador by former Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter McKay to undiplomatic comments from the Prime Minister and his ministers on China, this government's handling of China-Canada relations have been amateurish and have put domestic media sound bites ahead of constructive and effective diplomacy," said Mr. Rae.
"Reports of disagreements within the Conservative cabinet about its China policy and the reluctance of several of Mr. Harper's ministers to pursue closer ties have delivered precisely the wrong message to the Chinese government."
Bryon Wilfert, Liberal Associate Foreign Affairs Critic, said the previous Liberal government understood the importance of the Canada-China relationship and that constructive engagement with the government of China is the best way to promote Canadian values and trade.
"The previous Liberal government strengthened our partnership with China through numerous personal meetings and high level delegations," said Mr. Wilfert. "We formed the Canada-China Joint Committee on Human Rights (CCJCR) as a forum for promoting Canada's commitment to human rights in China and later the Canada-China Strategic Working Group (CCSWG) to further trade and diplomatic cooperation between our two countries.
"It is unfortunate that Prime Minister Harper has cancelled the successful Team Canada Trade missions to China, failed to engage in the previously annual meetings of the CCJCR since coming to power two years ago and backed away from the CCSWG."
Mr. Rae explained that both Canadians and Chinese are paying the price for the Conservative government's incompetence on the China file.
"Whether it is the Conservative government's inability the negotiate an agreement to allow Chinese tour groups to come to Canada or the erosion of Canada's traditional active and constructive role in working with the Chinese government to expand their adoption of human rights, the Conservative government's mishandling of this relationship is tragic,"
said Mr. Rae. "The Harper government's lack of nuance in its approach to China is dangerous and diminishes Canada's ability to deal with important issues like trade and international human rights."
Liberal Party of Canada Press Office Elizabeth Whiting
Office of Hon. Bryon Wilfert
My Comment: I am unclear of the basis for the Ambassador's statement about "